Torah Weekly - Parshat Ki Tavo
Parshat Ki Tavo
This publication is also available in the following formats: Explanation of these symbols
When Bnei Yisrael dwell in the Land of Israel, the first fruits are to be taken to the Temple and given to the kohen in a ceremony expressing recognition that it is Hashem who guides Jewish history throughout all ages. (This passage forms one of the central parts of the Haggadah that we read at the Passover Seder.) On the last day of Pesach of the fourth and seventh years of the seven-year shemita cycle, a person must recite a disclosure stating that he has indeed distributed the tithes to the appropriate people in the prescribed manner. With this mitzvah, Moshe concludes the commandments that Hashem has told him to give to the Jewish People. Moshe exhorts them to walk in Hashem’s ways, because they are set aside as a treasured people to Hashem. When Bnei Yisrael cross the Jordan River they are to make a new commitment to the Torah. Huge stones are to be erected and the Torah is to be written on them in the world’s seventy primary languages, and they are to be covered with a thin layer of plaster. Half the tribes will stand on Mount Gerizim and half on Mount Eval, and the levi’im will stand in a valley between the two mountains. There the levi’im will recite 12 commandments and all the people will say “amen” to the blessings and the curses. Moshe then details the blessings that will be bestowed upon Bnei Yisrael. These blessings are both physical and spiritual. But if the Jewish People do not keep the Torah, Moshe details a chilling picture of destruction, resulting in exile and wandering among the nations.
“Because you did not serve G-d, your G-d, with joy and with a good heart when you had everything in abundance, you will serve your enemies in hunger and thirst…lacking everything.” (28:41-42)
What a wonderful country is the United States of America!
On a recent flight in the States, I leaned forward and pulled out my in-flight buying guide. I was amazed at what I saw. I gazed, awe-struck, at products whose ingenuity was worthy of a James Bond movie: A nose-tweezer for my pet-poodle; a Sterling silver tooth-pick sharpener, etc.
America has solutions to problems people didn’t even know they had.
Of course I’m exaggerating. But not much.
Our society defines itself by its needs. The motto of the age is: “I need – therefore I am.” The fact that I am in need of something — however small — is the clearest indication that I am still here.
Defining ourselves by our needs, however, means we can never be happy, because a person always has unfulfilled — and un-fulfillable — needs.
The Jewish view of the word could not be more different. Judaism looks at life as a series of moments to give, in big ways and in small ways. We can give a large check to a worthy cause, or we can give a word of encouragement to someone who needs it. We can say “Thank you!” to the lady who washes the floors, or we can give a kidney to someone who is dying without one.
There is no such thing as a small gift.
Because the world was made as a place of giving. That’s its purpose. That’s its function.
Man is created “in G-d’s image.” The spiritual masters teach that being created in G-d’s image means that just as He is Merciful, so we should be merciful; just as He is The Giver, we must also be givers. Needless to say our giving can never approach His giving, because His is a giving which is impossible to reciprocate — He owns everything and needs nothing. But, as much as we can, we were put into this world to be givers. Thus, only by giving can we achieve a deep feeling of fulfillment and happiness.
On a mystical level, the happiness we achieve through giving is akin to “G-d’s happiness.” Obviously, G-d’s nature is totally beyond our understanding. One thing is clear, however: G-d made us in His image, and in the most distant of echoes, our happiness is a reflection of His happiness.
In His goodness, therefore, G-d implanted in man the potential for a joy akin to His, a joy in being, a joy of being fulfilled. It follows that every elevated human being — the true giver — resembles his Creator. In this very fundamental way, a person’s giving flows from an inner joy similar, in some sense, to the joy, of the Creator.
When a person does a mitzva, he can feel happy for one of two reasons: He can feel happy that he “chalked up a few more brownie points.” Or he can feel a happiness from the mitzva itself. In studying Torah, it often happens that we enjoy the process of the learning as much as the fact that we have learned something.
Our feelings when we do a mitzva give us a yardstick to the quality of our mitzvot. Are we suffused with a feeling of joy at doing the will of the Creator, or are we going through the motions without joy and without enthusiasm? Are our mitzvot an outpouring of the heart, or merely a drudge?
With this in mind, maybe we can understand a difficult aspect of this week’s parsha.
“Because you did not serve G-d, your G-d, with joy and with a good heart, when you had everything in abundance, you will serve your enemies in hunger and thirst…lacking everything.” (28:41-42)
What’s so terrible about serving G-d without joy, without a good heart, that it merits such dire consequences? Why is this the gravest sin of all?
Service without joy — without heart — is no service at all. It shows that we are needers and not givers. It shows we have totally missed the point of life. It shows that our service — is self-service.
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler and others
In this, the sixth of the “seven haftarot of consolation,” the Prophet Yeshaya calls on Jerusalem to rise from the pain of darkness and to shine to the world in full glory. The light of redemption, physically and spiritually, radiates on her. Her long-banished children are returning, and in their wake are the nations of the world who have acknowledged Hashem, and the Jewish People as His emissaries. This redemption, unlike those that have preceded it, will be final and complete. “Never again will your sun set, nor your moon be withdrawn, for Hashem shall be unto you an eternal light, and ended will be your days of mourning.”
ANNUALS & PERENNIALS“And your people, they are all righteous, forever shall they inherit the Land, a branch of My planting...” (60:21)
People think reincarnation is an Eastern concept. It is a Middle-Eastern one. One of Judaism’s gift to Eastern thought is reincarnation. If a person doesn’t follow the path that G-d indicates in this world, his soul may return until he corrects his character flaws. The above verse alludes to this process: “And your people are all righteous...” The question arises: “They’re all righteous? I see many people who are a long way from being righteous!” To which the next phrase answers — “a branch of My planting” — those who fail to achieve righteousness will be “replanted” many times until their good deeds finally come to fruition. Even the least righteous person returns and returns to this world until he eventually becomes virtuous and noble.
Mahram Mizrachi in Mayana shel Torah
Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
© 2001 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.
Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 685 full-time students.
The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.
Copyright © 2001 Ohr Somayach International. Send us Feedback.
Dedication opportunities are available for Torah Weekly. Please contact us for details.